Issues, as APC’s new ‘power bloc’ plots convention hijack
There are indications that the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) must have run into a serious constitutional cul-de-sac with the shift of the party’s national convention beyond December 2021.
From June 25, 2020, when the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) met at the Presidential Villa and dissolved its last elected National Working Committee (NWC), the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) that was set up in place of the NWC has received not less than two infusions to sustain its ad hoc mandate.
Next month, the CECPC led by Governor Buni of Yobe State, would need another lifeline to propel it towards the first quarter of 2022, when it would, ipso facto, hold the much-awaited APC national convention.
Close watchers of the APC abracadabra over its leadership structure and selection process, claim that the February date was a clever ploy by the new owners of the party to buy time in its grand design to ensure a total takeover the party structure.
The new party managers seem to be in a hurry to hide their designs, but the more the try to blindside other stakeholders, the more it becomes obvious that there things are not the way they should be in the party.
For instance, when Kebbi State governor, Senator Atiku Bagudu, disclosed that President Buhari had endorsed February 2022 as the tentative date for the over-delayed national convention, he left a cloud of doubts in the minds of his hearers.
Bagudu, who is also the chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) did not tell journalists whether the President had assumed absolute control of the party or supplanted the NEC of the party. Not that alone, the Kebbi State helmsman did not explain whether the meeting of President Buhari and the three governors holding the levers of power in APC translate to a NEC meeting.
But, the fact that the Presidential Villa meeting of the troika-Bagudu, Buni and Alhaji Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State stopped at the mere mention of February showed that there is still much work to be done. That further raises the possibility that the tentative month, although nebulous, is most likely to change.
Although the PGF chairman disclosed that they went on a representative capacity for their colleagues, the question remains, whether NEC would not meet to deliberate and ratify a date for the national convention? He had remarked that the APC governors resolved that the convention should hold in February 2022, pointing out that the same suggestion was what they proposed to the President for approval.
In the next breath, Bagudu outlined that the party’s leadership was yet to decide on a specific date in February for the national convention, adding that the party would (only) notify the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) when it drafts a timetable.
There are huge gaps in the various narratives around the delayed national convention of APC. Management experts had long held that whoever sets up a committee plans to move in circles. It is becoming apparent each passing day that APC leaders did not contemplate the deleterious connotation of its hurried dissolution of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC, especially given that after nearly two years of empanelling an interim management committee, the party continues to move around in circles.
It was perhaps on account of this circumlocution that the immediate past Deputy National Vice Chairman (South), Chief Hillard Etta, said that APC sowed the wind and was running away from reaping a whirlwind. Etta, who dragged the party to court after the NWC was dissolved, insists that CECPC remains an illegal body, adding that it was mindboggling that a governor that could not manage the affairs of his state should be saddled with the additional burden of leading a mega party like APC.
Perhaps, worried by the reservations being expressed by party faithful over the wobbly nature of planning for the national convention, Governor Buni, in a statement, tried to explain why President Buhari acceded to the month of February as the most auspicious time to hold the convention.
Even when the governing party might not acknowledge the notion publicly, it is possible that the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has compounded its woes by holding a successful national convention and warehousing a new NWC to await the expiration of the last mandate.
However, Buni had cited, among other factors, the crisis in Zamfara State chapter of the party, logistic challenges, approach of the yuletide and Christmas holiday as well as the impending Ekiti State governorship poll, as the basis of pushing the convention beyond December 2021.
Record shows that the party has never lacked plausible reasons to renege on its promise of holding a timely national convention to produce successors for the Oshiomhole-led NWC. At the expiry of the first six months allotted to the CECPC, the Edo and Ondo governorship polls were brought up as reasons to defend a further six months’ extension.
The two governorship polls over, the issue of membership revalidation cropped up. The argument was that, as a party that came on board on the promise of changing the way things are done in Nigeria, there was need for a credible membership register to provide a data base to plan and above all institutionalise internal democracy through direct primaries. Intriguingly, the Buni-led CECPC did not allude to internal democracy when he, alongside Bagudu and Badaru (the three Bs), met with President Buhari to take decisions that would be binding on other stakeholders.
The pushback by federal lawmakers against the league of state governors could be traced to this attempt by APC members in the executive arm of government to ride roughshod over other stakeholders. Those who accuse state governors of arrogance and disdain for due process point to Buni’s statement as a ready evidence.
According to the CECPC chairman, “The Progressive Governors’ Forum discussed the issue of the national convention of the party and they mandated us to come and discuss with the President as the party’s leader to give the input of the governors so that the party and the President will consider.
“Part of the inputs we got yesterday was that we still have four states, which are in the process of completing their congresses like Anambra, understandably, because of the recent gubernatorial election, Zamfara and two others, because of logistic challenges and then, Christmas is around the corner and early January we will be very busy with Ekiti.
“So, the governors, based on all these, suggested the party and the President should graciously consider February, and the President is favourably disposed to the suggestion.”
Are there guarantees that February would be feasible? Is it possible that Muslim fasting would not intrude on the February date? What if the President goes for his medicals in London? The PGF meeting at Kebbi State Governors’ Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, last Sunday was behind closed doors. But, the looks on the faces of most of the 20 APC governors betrayed their worry that the party seems to be going south, especially given that they declared that President Buhari would determine when the national convention would hold.
As the governors plot their supremacy schemes, they seem to lose sight of the fact that some of their predecessors, who retired to the National Assembly are not prepared to take the short end of the stick.
LOOKING at the three super-governors – Bagudu, Badaru and Buni-as they emerged from their meeting with the President, there was no mistaking the fact that they have taken over. But the question remains, how far can their schemes go?
Etta had in an interview with The Guardian regretted that the new owners of APC have adopted the scorched earth policy in managing the affairs of the party, stressing that unless dialogue and reason are thrown into the bargain, there may not be a party to call APC in 2023.
It has become a notorious fact that a lot of pretensions attends APC’s plans and plots geared towards leadership selection. The narrowness of views seems to ensue from the constriction of opportunities, which has brought about exclusivism.
For instance, when Buni explained that President Buhari and the governors agreed on a date in February, he did not disclose the level of broad stakeholder involvement that went into the discussion before arriving at that decision.
Without saying so, the new power bloc made up of the three well- connected northern governors, seem to have prejudiced the work of the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led nine-member reconciliation committee. Or could it be the stage was being set for another alibi to push forward the national convention when the committee submits its report?
If the CECPC tells party faithful that they need time to study and implement that Adamu committee report, it would sound plausible and credible. But, against the backcloth of similar procrastination over the holding of APC mid-term convention during the tenure of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, there is a strong probability that the CECPC wants to merge the national convention with the party’s Presidential primary.
This projection comes from the fear that APC’s new leaders loathe confronting the issue of zoning of party offices against the backdrop of the short-changing of the South/South, whose four-year tenure in the office of national chairman was truncated last year.
Although the disparity between the positions of President and party chairmanship makes it compelling that the next presidential candidate of APC should come from the South, each passing day shows that the sacking of Oshiomhole-led NWC was merely a ploy to take over the party structure and dictate who gets what in 2023.
Director-General of PGF, Dr. Saliu Lukman told The Guardian that “there are people who wished that APC implodes or becomes history by 2023, but he stressed that “that can only happen if party leaders sit back and stop doing what they are doing now.”
Lukman maintained that at every point in time APC leaders have been confronting the challenges facing the party. The PGF DG however, did not take into account the fact that some of the new challenges dogging the party’s progress are self-inflicted.
For instance, Lukman observed: “The party must avoid the problem whereby the structures as provided by the constitution are not meeting because the structure of the party is the negotiation platform, where everybody comes to canvass what they want and at the end of the day, decisions at that organ become the agreement.
“Comrade Adams Oshiomhole usually talks a lot about party supremacy. Party supremacy is not the pronouncement of an individual leader, but decisions taken as an organ. Once those organs are not meeting, there is no basis of supremacy or you end up in a situation where bad leaders become bullies.
“The most important thing the party can do to ensure that it is constantly renewing itself is to ensure that organs are meeting as provided in the constitution of the party. Once that is done almost all the problems are gone.
“So, institutions and structures matter a lot. My belief is that our politics should build and rescue more leaders. I don’t think we should engage in the kind of politics that disqualify people more than welcoming them. Our politics must be incremental and positive.”
Going by the assertions of Dr. Lukman, instead of limiting himself to the governors alone, President Buhari should hearken to Etta’s submission that the best way to solve the nagging issues in APC is for the President to, as the leader of the party, summon a meeting of all stakeholders.
In the light of the pressures being exerted on the party by concerns for party positions and the 2023 Presidential ticket of APC, President Buhari deserves to do more to, according to Etta, “make the party stronger than it has been, or the party may disintegrate due to contestations for power and privilege.”
Virtually all those involved in the efforts to establish the national leadership structure of the party have vested interests. For instance, the PGF chairman, Senator Bagudu, is said to be interested in the position of Vice President come 2023.
And, to ensure that his aspiration bears fruit, the outgoing Kebbi State governor seems to know that he needs Buni at the commanding heights of the party to ensure that a Presidential candidate of their choosing emerges.
To Badaru, who is keeping his future political plans close to his chest, he knows that with his buddies in the right places, his options will be on the table, if nothing else, as the power behind the throne.
Can these new power blocs in APC throw away the baby and bath water without hurting the family? Nigerians have three months to see how they are able to pull the party back from the brink.